Fork! Fork!


A year or so ago, I was in Corinth and heard that our old school, South Corinth Elementary, had been closed down. I had some time to kill, so I drove out there, jumped the fence and found a way inside. I probably spent two hours walking the halls of that place, and it was one hell of a flashback in time. I had my camera and tripod with me, so I took a ton of pictures. I found my way to the school cafeteria, and when I saw the food tray return area, it totally jarred my memory...When I was in the 5th grade, a few of us had a daily ritual that, right or wrong, we thought was hysterical....

When lunch was over and it was time to go back to our classroom, we'd walk with our trays up to the tray return area. And this is where the fun began...

The proper way to return your tray was to place it on the counter and then take your fork and put it in a plastic container that was also right there on the counter. This was a logical process because if you left your silverware on your tray, it could easily end up in the garbage. You see, there was a man that stood on the other side of the counter, and his job was to take the trays, dump the food and other stuff in the garbage cans, quickly spray the trays down and then neatly stack them off to the side.

This man happened to be Asian, and he would get extremely upset if you left your fork on your tray. Not only would he become visibly upset, but he would also scream, "Fork! Fork!" And this is where I must remind you that we were 5th graders. Extremely immature, thoughtless 5th graders.

Remember that I said he was Asian, right? Well, when he would scream, "Fork! Fork!" it sounded like he was saying something else. That "something else" was another four-letter word that we were obviously forbidden to ever say. And so, every single day at lunch, we would round that corner, toss our trays up on the counter without removing our forks, and wait for the screaming "obscenities" to ensue. Then we'd bolt through the door and run back to our room laughing hysterically.

Looking back on it, I know it was a mean thing to do. He was a hard-working man and I'm sure we made his job more difficult. But at the time, we didn't think about things like that. We thought it was funny and that's all that mattered to us.

Anyway, 30 years later, Mr. Cafeteria Man, I'm apologizing. If you're out there, I just want you to know that every night when I'm done eating and rinse my dishes in the sink before putting them in the dishwasher, I think of you as I drop my fork in the silverware basket.